It’s a tough world out there. Some would say that for writers is never been tougher. Over the past twenty years or so a whole industry has sprung up and flourished around something called creative writing: classes, qualifications, editorial services, assisted self-publishing.
I plead guilty to being part of that industry. I used to teach classes in creative writing; and a lot of years ago, before it all really got started, I set up an appraisal service offering individual feedback from writing professionals. In those days I was a writer myself, and I knew other writers who needed to supplement a meagre income. It was one of the things we did.
The problem, of course, was that when opportunities to ‘learn’ to write became so widespread, the number of people who aspired to writing a book and getting it published seemed to grow exponentially. Publishers’ slush piles became skyscrapers at just about the time they realised publishing was a cutthroat business and began to pare down their staff; agents were overwhelmed with requests for representation; a lot of good new writing got buried; and it became a lot harder to make an impression on, or even get through to, someone in a big publishing house.
Oh yes, and the publishing houses merged and took each other over, and the business part became even more cutthroat – which meant they were less willing to take risks on unknown quantities.
And then along came small indies like Crème de la Crime.
Our USP, as the marketing-speak puts it, is previously undiscovered talent. We seek out people with a lot of talent but no track record, and help them put a foot on the ladder.
When we started out, that was the entire plan: publish half a dozen debut novels a year, maybe a second from one or two of those authors. We’d give them a start, some credibility, something for the CV; after that, the world would be their oyster.
The question was, what happened next?
Our thought was someone would spot all this talent and feel a burning need to exploit it. One thing I learned when I was sending out short stories and feature pieces to every magazine I could track down was that nothing impresses an editor more than another editor’s good opinion.
It didn’t turn out quite as we planned, of course; things rarely do. I spent quite a few hours dangling one particular author under the noses of some much bigger players than we are, to no avail whatever. Such a pity; her work is brilliant, but despite our best efforts she just didn’t reach enough enthusiastic readers, or touch the must-have button with any of the people I approached.
Two more of our early discoveries have decided they’re comfortable where they are, and their fifth titles come out this summer – gratifying, especially since they’re our best sellers.
But over the past few weeks the original plan seems to be showing signs of working out after all. Felicity Young, a sparky Australian author who we published back in 2005, now seems settled with a publisher in her home country, which probably makes life simpler all round. Her third title comes out in a month or so – so I think I can say we provided a launchpad for a career.
And just this morning I discovered that David Harrison, our first debut author of 2006, has scooped up a two-book deal with one of the big guys, with the help of an agent he impressed with his deal with us.
It feels a little like motherhood. You bring them into the world, you nurture them, you give them a start – then you send them out to seek their fortune.
Hoping, if I’m honest, that a little of that fortune rubs off. So that we can go on being that launchpad.